We got the Chinatown side of the Sixers arena discussion on Thursday’s episode of Crossing Broadcast. Joining us was Mohan Seshadri, Executive Director of the Asian Pacific Islander Political Alliance, and South Philly/Chinatown native Kenny Chiu, who has been involved in arena activism.

In a discussion spanning about 40 minutes, we touched on the following topics:

  • current community thoughts on the arena
  • concerns about traffic, displacement, and gentrification
  • a lack of readily-available information and more specific detail of arena plans
  • the idea of compromising with the Sixers for the benefit of the community
  • expanding Chinatown north of 676 (the “stitch” project)
  • neighborhood thoughts on the Fashion District and shuttered Greyhound bus terminal
  • realistic pathways for the community to fight the arena

Notably, Seshadri reiterated the community concern over information, or lack thereof.

“It’s been a year, right? And we still haven’t seen complete details,” he said. “We haven’t seen the financing. We haven’t seen the complete plans. And where I’m at, is our community members, especially our small business owners – and I want to stress, that’s not just Chinese, Chinatown-based small business owners – we’re hearing this from folks across the area – they’re scared. They don’t know how this is going to impact them. They also don’t know (what impact) six years of non-stop construction, before we even get to the arena being built (would have). Where we’re at is that we’d like to see some evidence from these developers that they have the financing. We’d like to see some actual plans written down on paper, rather than just fancy graphics and fancy artwork. We’d like to see the actual plans so that we can engage with that meaningfully, rather than right now where we have a lot of stuff just being told to us by officials. We have two million dollars being spent by these developers to lobby city government and city council, but we still don’t have any actual details so we can understand how this is going to impact our communities.”

The arena plans have the building backing up to Cuthbert street, between 10th and 11th, a few feet from the Chinatown border.

“Displacement is not just putting an arena (on top of) homes and businesses,” Chiu added. “That’s not what this is doing. But displacement can happen before this arena is even opened, even if it’s not directly replacing certain buildings or homes. It can happen with construction or roads being blocked. It decreases traffic for Chinatown and the customer base for Chinatown. When customers can’t get to these small businesses, that’s when they start to close. And when this arena does open, then you have 18,500 people I think coming in all at once. We think that the chaos it can bring would also force families to be really afraid of what could go on.”

Full conversation here: